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Uncategorized   |   Jun 26, 2010

Creating a functional learning space

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Creating a functional learning space

By Angela Watson

As we head into vacation, many teachers start daydreaming about how they’d like to arrange and decorate their classroom in the fall. And why not? Designing your learning space is one of the most fun and creative of all the ‘teacher tasks’! Here are some of my favorite resources I’ve compiled to help you:

Classroom Photo Collections


The best way to get classroom arrangement ideas is to see photos of how REAL teachers have set up their rooms. There’s a page on my website called Classroom Tours, and there you can view all of my classrooms from 2003-2009 as well as photographs of my colleagues’ classrooms and those of website visitors. You’re sure to get some creative ideas for utilizing your space in a new way! The page also has links to other online collections of classroom photos and bulletin board displays–there are some GREAT ones out there!

Free Posters and Labels to Print


Book Bin Labels Type in any genre you have in your classroom library, print, and affix. Or, modify with graphics or your own choice. Download here or visit Teaching Heart site
Educational posters Free and printable! Print-a-poster.com
Color words posters Words enhanced by beautiful Jan Brett art (author of The Mitten and many other children’s classics) Jan Brett
Manuscript and cursive alphabet displays Use as a model or for a word wall- beautiful art Jan Brett
Number displays Numeral and corresponding objects in pretty Jan Brett art Jan Brett
Phonics posters For word families and blends. Adrian Bruce
Reading strategy posters Text connections, main idea, visualizing, and much more. Site is difficult to navigate, but great resources ARE there.
Northshore School District, WA
Customizable center signs These labels are fully customizable and feature photographs of young children: you must register (for free) to create them EI Child
Center signs These full-color signs can’t be customized, but there are a wide variety of them and they’re adorable AbcTeach


You can find more of my recommendations for printables on the Fun Free Stuff to Print page: there are flashcards, games, manipulatives, awards, forms, and much more.

Spaces and Places by Debbie Diller


I received a review copy of Debbie’s latest book and was absolutely thrilled with what I saw. She’s compiled full-color photos of classrooms from around the country to show you how to organize and arrange your classroom in way that supports your instructional goals. Her philosophy is always learning-centered: “Don’t ‘decorate’ your classroom. Instead, plan for instruction and leave some room for your students!” Debbie has a way of always directing the reader back to that essential concept while still tapping into the creative aspect of classroom arrangement. The book’s focus is on designing classrooms for literacy since that’s a core focus for elementary teachers and Debbie’s area of expertise, but I’ve found that her ideas aren’t limited to just that subject area. Spaces and Places is a really fun read that’s sure to give you new ideas and inspire you to design not only an attractive but truly functional learning environment.

More Ideas for Decorating and Organizing the Classroom

I’ve organized a number of my ideas into web pages on my site:

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela is a National Board Certified educator with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach. She started this website in 2003, and now serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Truth for Teachers...
Browse Articles by Angela


  1. Your blog is what originally gave me the idea of a classroom tour. One strategy that worked well for me is painting on the walls. Not everyone has the freedom to do this, but things like:

    1. six traits / paragraph format
    2. tree that would later become the Word Wall
    3. a three-dimensional-style mural showing the writing process from start to finish
    4. student-created de coupage posters showing the reading process

    This allowed the entire wall space to be used and yet it didn’t look too crowded or violate fire code

  2. Angela,
    Wow! What a lot of work you have been doing on your “new” site! Very helpful and impressive. I’ve directed a lot of teacher friends to your site to assist them. What a talented, generous heart you have. Thank you. You are indeed a blessing.

    1. Thanks, Dorothy! Yep, I’ve been working full-time on the site over the last week, and plan to continue throughout the summer. I appreciate your passing the info on to your teacher friends. 🙂

  3. The classroom photos are great inspiration, especially when you feel like you’ve tried it all! Thank you for the Debbie Diller book idea- I can’t wait to check it out 🙂

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